El Salvador Mega-Prison CECOT, or terrorism confinement center, is a maximum security prison located in Tecoluca San Vicente. The CECOT jail opened in February 2023 and can house 40,000 inmates.
El Salvador Mega-Prison was built to house convicted gang members. The government’s reasons for constructing CECOT were to decongest the already congested maximum security prisons and have a designed jail to hold all convicted gang members.
CECOT, the largest prison in Latin America, is going to be needed as the Salvadoran Government continues its gang crackdown using the controversial State of Exception security measure. As of September 2023, Salvadoran Authorities have arrested over 71,000 alleged gang members.
Transfer of Inmates to CECOT
The first 2,000 inmates were transferred on February 24. The transfer took place at night under extensive security arrangements by the Salvadoran Police and the Army.
On March 15, 2023, an additional 2,000 incarcerated gang members were transferred to the CECOT Mega-Prison, once again under tight security measures.
President Nayib Bukele reported on this second transfer of 2,000 gang members to the Center for the Confinement of Terrorism (CECOT) via his Twitter account.
This day, in a new operation, we transferred the second group of 2,000 gang members to the Center for the Confinement of Terrorism (CECOT). With this, there are already 4,000 gang members who inhabit the most criticized prison in the world. Nayib Bukele.
It is unknown how many more gang members have been transferred into the CECOT Mega-Prison as the Salvadoran government is not releasing that information.
Prison’s Location and Local Community Controversy
The CECOT Mega-Prison is in the municipality of Tecoluca in the department of San Vicente. The maximum security jail is between the Cities of San Vicente and Zacatecoluca, about 70 kilometers from the capital city, San Salvador.
From the start of the construction, the local communities in Tecoluca have been displeased with the new Mega-Prison. Local leaders argue that the Government didn’t consult them about building the jail in their community.
Locals are worried that the Tecoluca prison could generate serious problems for the area, such as environmental, social, and productive.
The area around the prison is fertile and ideal for agriculture and farming; therefore, less agricultural production will affect the economy of the region.
Additionally, local leaders worry that unemployment could increase as most people in the Tecoluca region work in the agricultural and farm sectors.
Lastly, locals are also concerned with the impact of the prison on water resources. These communities are already facing the Salvadoran water problem; they only receive potable water a few days a week. The water problem could get worse once the prison operates at maximum capacity.
Monitoring the CECOT Mega-Prison
In September 2023, at the request of the Supreme Court of Justice, legislators approved a transitional provision so that the Usulutan and Cojutepeque courts assume responsibility for monitoring the CECOT jail.
This court will have the responsibility of Monitoring that the rights of people deprived of liberty in the Terrorism Confinement Center (CECOT) are respected.
The Tecoluca Mega-Prison is a maximum security facility sitting on a 410-acre plot of land; the physical complex itself covers approximately 57 acres.
CECOT was deliberately built in an isolated area, away from public institutions, urban centers, or any contact with the outside world. The facility has its own water and electricity systems.
The eight-cell blocks within CECOT cover approximately 50,000 square meters. The cells are divided into modules, each containing two toilets, two washing basins, and 80 bunks (with no mattresses) for more than 100 inmates.
The solitary confinement cells are separate from the main modules. These isolated cells have a concrete slab for sleeping, a toilet, and a washing basin with no natural or artificial light.
According to the Government, the Mega-Prison is secured by 1,000 guards, 600 soldiers, and 250 police officers. The prison has nineteen guard towers, seven on the perimeter and twelve on the interior.
SEE ALSO: El Salvador’s Homicide Rate
International Condemnation of the Mega-Prison
The construction of this Mega-Prison has brought criticism to the Bukele presidency from the opposition and human rights organizations.
Human rights experts in El Salvador point out that the Tecoluca prison resembles a concentration camp. They are not the only ones criticizing the Tecoluca jail; Carolina Jimenez Sandoval, President of WOLA and former Amnesty International research director for the Americas, expressed her concerns.
With this prison, the government of Nayib Bukele in El Salvador shows that it does not have clear plans to prevent crime (which is ideal in any society). Your main option is a permanent “exception” state where violations of human rights are committed.” Carolina Jimenez Sandoval.
Amnesty International also condemned the mass arrests and the new prison.
El Salvador Mega-Prison CECOT
In conclusion, El Salvador’s Mega-Prison CECOT represents a significant and innovative approach to addressing the country’s complex issues of crime and overcrowded prisons. Its emphasis is not on rehabilitation or reintegration but on making sure gang members do not harm Salvadorans anymore.